Sections 49-59

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Last Updated March 24, 2023.


Further along the road to Jefferson, the Bundrens take yet another rest and stay with a local farmer named Gillespie. As they rest on his property, they place Addie’s coffin peacefully under an apple tree. Darl and Vardaman put their ears close to the coffin, and Vardaman says that he can hear something. Darl tells him that Addie is talking to God, and asking Him to hide her from the sight of man so that she can lay down her life. 

After that disconcerting experience, the two boys visit Cash, who, despite his visibly worsening wound, assures his brothers that he feels fine and repeats once again that he is obliged to them and their mother. Vardaman anxiously asks Dewey Dell if she is sure the train will still be in the window of the Jefferson toy store, and she says that he will see tomorrow. Gillespie, Anse, Jewel, and Darl come out of the house and move Addie’s coffin into the barn for the evening. 


Unexpectedly, the barn is ablaze. Darl and Jewel race towards the burning structure, as Gillespie rushes out of the house with Anse, Dewey Dell, and Vardaman by his side. Jewel rushes into the burning barn to save the animals, then returns for Addie’s coffin, despite the rest of the family’s attempts to stop him, worried that he will perish in the flames. However, Jewel acts heroically, sliding the coffin off the saw-horses upon which it was resting and awkwardly dragging it outside, earning awful burns during the process. 


In the wake of the fire, the Bundren family is a bedraggled bunch. The exposed flesh of Cash’s broken leg has turned black, and Anse tries to remove the cement cast with a flat iron and hammer but barely manages to crack the cement. Jewel’s heroism has left his back painfully burnt and red, so Dewey Dell rubs a homemade ointment of butter and soot onto it, which turns the already-damaged skin black. Addie’s coffin is back under the apple tree, and Darl is lying on top of it. 


Once more on the road, Darl notices a variety of billboards advertising a collection of Jefferson-based businesses and concludes that they are getting close to their destination. Dewey Dell asks Anse to stop the wagon and goes into the bushes. When she returns, she is wearing her Sunday dress with shoes and stockings, which Anse told her to leave at home. 

As the wagon is going uphill and the boys walk behind it, a man walking nearby complains about the smell of the wagon, which the family takes as an attack on Addie’s corpse. Jewel curses him, and the man draws a knife. Darl tells Jewel to say that he did not mean to insult the man, and Jewel reluctantly complies. Anse drives on, and the family sees the town of Jefferson ahead of them, staring in awe at the central square, the monument, and the courthouse. 


In Jefferson, the Bundrens’ problems have not yet come to an end. Cash says that Gillespie knows that Darl set fire to his barn; as such, the only way the family can escape being sued is by arranging for Darl to be declared insane and sent away to a lunatic asylum in Jackson, the state capital. 

Jewel, much embittered toward Darl after his mocking words about his parentage, suggests that Darl should be tied up before he sets fire to the wagon as well; however, Cash regards this as too harsh and prevents him from doing so. Cash argues that sanity is a matter of...

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opinion and that it is difficult to determine whether someone is crazy or not because nobody is completely crazy or completely sane. People call a man crazy when “he can’t see eye to eye with other folks.” However, he agrees that nothing excuses setting fire to a barn and putting the livestock in danger. The Bundrens borrow spades from a house in Jefferson where they can hear a gramophone playing and finally bury Addie. After this, Darl is taken away to the lunatic asylum, laughing out loud at the absurdity of it all. 


Peabody assesses Cash’s leg, then tells the younger man that he was a fool for allowing Anse to put cement on his leg and for being so unyielding and stoic about the pain. He speaks contemptuously of Anse’s selfishness but says that if Cash can claim any luck at all, it is at least fortunate that the leg he broke was the same one that was broken the year before. Cash replies that this is just what Anse says. 


Finally in Jefferson, Dewey Dell goes to a pharmacy and requests an appointment with the doctor. McGowan, the pharmacist, thinks she is very pretty for a country girl and pretends to be a doctor, despite the warnings of his co-worker, Jody, that he could be fired for his deception. 

When Dewey Dell asks for an abortion, he gives her some medicine, which smells suspiciously like turpentine, from a random bottle. He then tells her to come back at 10:00 p.m. that evening, so he can perform the operation. When she returns several hours later, he gives her a box of capsules, then takes her down to the cellar and proceeds to assault her under the guise of performing the procedure. 


Dewey Dell takes Vardaman with her through the streets of Jefferson at night. He wants to go to the toy store with the train in the window, but Dewey Dell takes him to the pharmacy and tells him to wait outside. While he is waiting, Vardaman thinks about Darl being taken away to the asylum. When Dewey Dell comes out of the pharmacy, she says: “That son of a bitch” and keeps repeating that she knows the treatment will not work. 


Two men put Darl on the train to Jackson. He talks about the experience in the third person, continually laughing and repeating the word “yes.” He remembers people asking why he is laughing and imagines himself in a cage. 

Dewey Dell

Anse sees that Dewey Dell has ten dollars and asks her where she got the money. She tells him that it was from selling Cora Tull’s cakes. Her bluff fails, as Anse does not think she could have sold two cakes for ten dollars. Moreover, he does not believe that she brought the cakes with her, as the packages she carried contained her Sunday clothes. He takes the money from his daughter, despite her protests, and says it was lucky for Addie that she died so she did not have to witness her children’s ingratitude. 


Anse returns the spades the family used to bury Addie to the house where the gramophone was playing and takes a long time in doing so. The next day, as the Bundrens prepare to leave, Anse’s face looks different, and he is accompanied by an unfamiliar woman carrying a gramophone. Jewel says that Anse looks different because he has got the new teeth he wanted. Anse introduces Cash, Jewel, Vardaman, and Dewey Dell to the woman, who is well-dressed but stares at the Bundren children with hard eyes and an aggressive expression. This, Anse tells them, is the new Mrs. Bundren.


Sections 41-48